In the eyes of Laurent Rérat who created Foolfashion in 2011, specialising in riding gear but also offering lifestyle and sportswear.
At first glance, there is not much of a connection between a psychiatric animator and the entrepreneur you have become. What was your path?
One thing is certain, I always wanted to work in the horse world, even if my parents didn't really want me to. In Switzerland, we lived 50 metres from a riding school. As a child, I spent all my time looking after horses, riding them. Then, by chance, I started a career in the medical and social field, first as a nurse's aide and then as a psychiatric animator. Then the day comes when you ask yourself if this is the right path for you. For me, it was in 2009, a ten-day break to meditate. When I came back, I left everything behind and went on a roadtrip that lasted almost two years: Australia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Canada, the United States... In New York, I discovered some new brands that were doing very well - Abercrombie, Hollister, Aéropostale - and that were not yet established in Europe, so I brought them back in my bags. But I didn't yet know what I was going to do with them...
And the world of horses catches up with you...
Yes, in 2011. I still had quite a few connections in this field. I was invited by an owner of a riding school in Geneva to come and present my "finds" at a competition, one weekend. And it took off immediately. I did competition after competition, with the means at hand, before investing in a travelling shop that I called Fooltruck. Then, I turned to equestrian clothing and I was able to benefit from a great exhibition at the CHI in Geneva. I managed the official shop, the merchandising stands, the outfits for the 1,000 volunteers and the staff. The natural next step was to create a first shop. This was done in 2017 in Buchillon, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
What is your relationship with the customer?
Over the years, I have learned to understand their expectations. After the Covid period, you would have thought that they would have gone over to e-commerce and would no longer come back to the shop. The opposite is true. The advice dimension is therefore essential in our business, which is why my six employees are all riders. You can only sell what you know well. And as I am a hyperactive person, I am always on the lookout to find out how I can do things better, it's a constant questioning. In recent years, we have seen a rise in everything to do with the safety and well-being of the horse. It's up to us to respond to these customer aspirations.
You mentioned Covid, how did you get through this period?
Our digital offer was already very present, so there was a fairly natural transfer from the shop to e-commerce. And as customers refocused on their passion during this period, sales took off and increased sixfold in three years. Building on this momentum, my husband Christophe and I decided to launch our own Foolfashion franchises: the first in Martigny, followed by two others in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Nyons. Today, our brand has 5,000 items, 4 shops and 15,000 loyal customers.
What is Ekkia's place in your supply chain?
We have been working with Ekkia for four years now. Their key advantage is the breadth of their range - you can find everything in one place - and their catalogue of brands. For a retailer, it's much easier to manage. Beyond that, it is a company that listens to its saddlers, with a contact that is both simple and responsive. The quality is good - we have very few returns - and the range is constantly expanding and evolving. So don't change anything!
What is your favourite human or relational quality and what do you dislike?
I would say empathy, human contact, sharing. That's why I love being in the shop with my customers. With Christophe and the employees, we have created a special atmosphere, a unique relationship with our customers. On the other hand, the customer's demands, when they are not justified, can be difficult to live with.
The future belongs to those who get up early. I am up every day from 4am. Before arriving at the shop at 8.30 a.m., I've already done an hour and a half of sport and an hour and a half of horse riding. And lots of new ideas!
Ekkia in a nutshell?
There will be two: choice and service. I've never seen a supplier as responsive as that.